Back in November, Opter's Pose soared to Kickstarter success β garnering over $24,000 despite only asking for $15,000. At the time, things seemed to be smooth sailing. The device was done, the apps were done and the estimated posting date for backers was two months after they truly expected to ship.
The Pose, which is a blue-light sensing posture tracker that can track your sleep, your exposure to blue light (which harms your sleep), posture and UV light, was not that easy to actually manufacture.
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"You go in with people telling you it's hard, and you know it's going to be hard but it's always harder than what you expect," says CEO Charlisa Prarasri. She tells Wareable that the company hit a major speed bump when it came to manufacturing time.
The company had spent time perfecting its prototypes, and had initially planned to create each device by hand, but then the scale hit. The company wouldn't be able to make as many Pose devices as it needed to as quickly as it needed to, so it switched to manufacturing. Which mean that it also needed to replace the backing on the device from bamboo to plastic, much to the chagrin of some backers, who have complained on the Kickstarter campaign.
Prarasri notes that the switch solved two problems: It was easier to make at scale and it made the device more waterproof. This is just a taste of what Opter ran into as it jumped into manufacturing, as it realised that prototypes don't necessarily make good mass market devices.
For instance, while converting its prototype drawings into plans a machine could use, it quickly found out that not everything was simpatico. Some parts had to be totally re-engineered to fit into the manufacturing machine.
Sourcing parts was also a challenge, as the company didn't want to buy in America because it would be too expensive and it'd waste time shipping parts to a manufacturing plant in China. Instead, it opted to buy and ship within China to save time and money. Plus there's customs, and finding cost-efficient ways to ship a small amount of units to some countries.
Many backers have, quite fairly, complained on the company's Kickstarter page that Opter hasn't been transparent enough about what's happening to the product. Prararsi says that's why the company recently released its iOS and Android apps.
"We definitely don't want anyone to think we're scamming people. We've been working on this for nearly three years and it's our baby," she says. The apps are somewhat of a token to prove the company can still do what it says it will.
Prarasi and her co-founder Cutter tend to read the comments and messages from backers together now, as they found it too stressful, terrifying and painful to do it by themselves. She wants the company to be authentic and transparent, too, but admits that it's incredibly hard.
Not just to actually read the comments and respond to comments, but also because every time Opter does provide transparency she feels it's still a little too formal. Especially as it's a small team, and not many of that team has customer service experience. "We're just people dealing with customer service for the first time," she says.
Backers have complained about the delays and that the device now has a plastic back, but Prararsi seems confident Opter has figured manufacturing out. In fact, she says they plan on shipping in two months β but also doesn't want to guarantee anything until they're absolutely sure. She said she's learned that absolutely anything can go wrong.
In fact, Opter is also planning a service to partner with the new Pose. To launch in early 2019, it would let Pose users subscribe to a number of training plans created by doctors at Johns Hopkins. Plans include weight loss and sleep tracking, and it'll use your Pose data to cater advice from Johns Hopkins doctors to yourself. The service may cost about $24.99, but Prararsi wants to add more features first.
Opter has a small team with big ambitions, and the company is now being forthright about the challenges of developing the Pose β and the challenges of crowdfunding campaigns in general.
It still has a vision for its future, and for the most part it seems Opter has seen where it's stumbled and is working on ways to improve, from manufacturing to being transparent with backers.
The device is as sound as it ever was, but it's also been about 10 months since Opter's campaign. That's a long, long time. If you're a backer, it does seem like these devices are on their way, it's just going to take a while longer.